The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has raised many questions about many things, including how to feed your baby safely. There are many things to consider. Maybe you are thinking about making changes to your birth plan for feeding your newborn, or changing the way you are feeding your baby now. These choices are even tougher if you are exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19. Here are a few things to consider in making these important decisions.
Is it safe to breastfeed my baby during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Breast milk is the best food for your baby during the first year of life and it helps protect your baby against many illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that COVID-19 is present in breast milk. Experts think that the infection spreads mainly through small liquid droplets from the nose or mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, if you have COVID-19 you may pump your milk and a healthy caregiver can feed your breast milk to your baby. If your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), breast milk is still the best food, but the way you feed your baby in the NICU depends on her medical condition.
If I have been diagnosed with COVID-19, how can I protect my baby while breastfeeding?
There are a few simple hygiene tips to help protect your baby from COVID-19 while you breastfeed her directly or from a bottle with pumped breast milk.
- Wash your hands before feeding your baby. Use soap and water if possible. Alcohol based sanitizer is OK if you don’t have soap and water.
- Clean your breast prior to feeding.
- Wear a facemask or face covering to cover any droplets from the nose or mouth while breastfeeding and handling pumps or bottle parts.
- Use clean hands to handle your breast pump and bottle parts before and after use.
- Ask for help at home or in the hospital.
- Pump your breast milk and have someone who is not sick feed your baby.
- Make sure the healthy caregiver feeding your baby also follows hygiene tips.
Your health care provider may recommend that you remain separate from your baby at home and in the hospital, except for breastfeeding time. Or she may suggest you to pump your breast milk and have a healthy caregiver feed it to your baby.
Can stress about COVID-19 affect my breast milk supply?
As you breastfeed or pump your breast milk, your body learns to produce exactly the right amount of breast milk for your baby. But stress around life events like COVID-19 can temporarily interfere with your milk supply. Don’t get discouraged, breastfeeding and pumping can release hormones that help relieve some of the stress and anxiety that you are feeling. Breastfeeding is good for you too!
Take some time for yourself daily and exercise to relieve stress. You may also be able to build up your milk supply by:
- Getting rest. Your body produces more milk when it’s rested.
- Eating healthy foods and drinking a lot of fluids, like water, juice or milk. When you breastfeed, your body loses fluid. It’s important that you get that fluid back through what you drink.
- Using a breast pump after or between feedings. When you pump your breasts often, they make more breast milk.
- Pumping your breasts until they are empty each time you pump.
- Doing kangaroo care (also called skin-to-skin care). This is when you put your baby, dressed only in a diaper, on your bare chest.
Should I feed my baby something other than breast milk?
Breast milk is still the best food for your baby, but sometimes illnesses like COVID-19 make it difficult to breastfeed or pump full-time. It is important that you not feel discouraged. There are other options to consider such as formula or pasteurized donor milk.
Formula is a milk product you can feed your baby instead of breast milk. Donor breast milk is breast milk that’s been donated to a milk bank. A milk bank receives and stores donated breast milk, tests it to make sure it’s safe and sends it to families of babies who need it. Donor breast milk has all the benefits of your own breast milk. Sometimes babies get both donor breast milk and formula. It is still important to practice proper hygiene steps when preparing formula or donor breast milk for your baby.
There is a lot to consider when deciding how to feed your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk to your provider and your family and choose what is best for you and your baby.